Tuesday, October 8, 2013

ANOTHER CLASSIC: 1977 TOPPS DAVE KINGMAN #500

I remember the first time I ever laid eyes on a 1977 Topps Dave Kingman card (#500). I thought it was "majestic"! 
Seriously! I ripped open a wax pack back in 1977 at the age of eight, flipped through the cards looking for any Yankee players, and THIS beauty caught my eye.
Just look at it: Kingman following the flight of what seems to be one of his many BOMBS, with that awesome blue "N.L. All-Stars" banner running across the bottom.
What made it all work for me was the fact that the "Mets" name across the top, Kingman's uniform, and the All-Star banner all matched perfectly, making for an esthetically flawless card in my book.
Much like the 1977 Rusty Staub card, which I profiled on this blog some time ago, I am always a sucker for a card where the design AND photo are color coordinated! Some 1976 A's and Reds cards come to mind as well.
Take a look at Kingman's card:

"Kong" following one of his moon shots.
Kingman was such a freakin' enigma when he played. While he was bashing homers no matter where he went, he often came across as a bit "flighty" or "distant" to teammates and the press alike, leading him to be less than popular in his 16 year career.
On top of his personality, Kingman personified that "all or nothing" player, often hitting 30+ homers with less than favorable batting averages, piling up strikeouts like few others in the league.
Take his 1982 season as an example. Kingman lead the N.L. In homers with 37, yet managed to eke out a .204 batting average with a league leading 156 strikeouts.
Adding to the enigmatic legend, in 1986 Kingman hit 35 home runs for the Oakland A's, yet never returned to the Major Leagues, thus setting a record that still stands today for homers in a final season of a career.
As a matter of fact, in his three years playing for Oakland, the LAST three years of his career, Kingman smashed 35, 30 and 35 home runs. 100 home runs for a guy who hung them up soon afterwards without warning.
By the time he was done both frustrating and exciting fans, he belted a very respectable 442 homers for the Giants, Mets, Yankees, Angels, Padres, Cubs, and A's.
What's amazing about that home run number was that he hit those 442 homers in just 6677 at-bats! Consider that Hank Aaron had over 12000 at-bats and you get the sense of Kingman's homer "ratio" (a favorite Oscar Gamble quip). Amazing. But at the same time, in those 6677 at-bats he also whiffed 1816 times! 
Again, it was all-or-nothing with "Kong", but it was a fun ride watching him play.

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